HB 269 by Representative Thompson

SB 1165 by Senator Garcia

Empowering Victims of Human Trafficking to Restore and Rebuild

 

Proposed Policy ReformCHILDREN AT RISK supports amending the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow victims of human trafficking to set aside convictions for prostitution offenses they received as a direct result of being trafficked.  Victims of human trafficking deserve a chance to normalize and rebuild their lives.

Scope of the Problem:  The Texas Slavery Mapping Project recently released its report estimating that there are nearly 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking in Texas.[1] By definition, these victims are forced into a life of prostitution. Even after a victim escapes or is rescued, the effects of this slavery continue, as he or she is often saddled with prostitution convictions incurred as a direct result of being trafficked. These convictions inhibit victims’ eligibility to obtain employment or housing, receive certain government benefits, and prevents them from being able to fully rehabilitate and reintegrate into their communities.

Without a way to set aside these convictions, traffickers are able to continue to prey on their victim’s vulnerability to housing and employment discrimination and the stigmas associated with prostitution.     Allowing victims of human trafficking to set aside these convictions gives them a chance to rebuild their lives free from the bonds of slavery, so that they can become productive citizens. Just as the removal of a trafficker’s tattooed name or brand has a healing effect on survivors of human trafficking, this too will allow victims to change both the way they are viewed and how they view themselves.

How it Works: HB 269 permits a victim to file a petition to set aside his or her prostitution conviction with to the court of original jurisdiction within five years of receiving the conviction.  This petition must allege specific facts to establish that the victim engaged in prostitution solely as a victim of trafficking or compelled prostitution, and may also include governmental documents attesting to this as well. The state can oppose the petition. Ultimately, the court will decide whether relief should be granted, based on the evidence presented and the interests of justice.  If granted, the prostitution conviction goes away completely.  Additionally, if successful, the petitioner may then move to have his or her arrest records expunged as well; however, the state may move to have redacted records retained if needed for other purposes.

Impact:  HB 269 will help victims of human trafficking recover so that they can to begin to live normal lives without the burden of prostitution convictions received while under the control of and for the benefit of their traffickers.



[1] The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas (2016) available at: http://sites.utexas.edu/idvsa/files/2017/02/Human-Trafficking-by-the-Numbers-2016.pdf.